It was a night of feasts and frustrations in Asgard, which meant it was a night of avoidance for Loki Odinson. A band of knights, including his rambunctious older brother and himself, and recently returned from battling a group of rogue thieves in the woods on the outskirts of their city. Everyone returned remotely unharmed and very hungry, but a fouler inconvenience was their injured pride. They had lost a simple battle against a band of-admittedly well trained, but still peasant-thieves. And all because Loki had called out Thor's name right as the God of Thunder was about to strike down on the leader of the gang. Thor took it that Loki had been injured, when really the God of Mischief was just wondering where his idiot brother went since it seemed the battle was over. Because of this, Thor not only missed the strike, but was knocked on his back and had to watch as the rogues slipped away. A few men and women pursued, but the thieves were men of shadows and were soon gone from sight, leaving a pack of angry, ashamed Gods behind.

Now, Loki knew it wasn't really his fault, considering that he didn't even cry out that loud, but Thor had given him a glare to kill a thousand oxen as he passed him on the way back to his horse. Of course Loki decided the best way to handle the situation would be to ride a few yards back from him and let him stew it out. He knew Thor would never intentionally hurt him, but it was always best to avoid his brother when he was in these infuriated sort of moods. So, instead, Loki skipped eating supper and now wandered the halls of the Asgard castle while he tried to decide whether to poke some fun at a servant or browse the books of their glorious library. Or, it would be glorious if Gods weren't such angry, barbaric things who liked to rip pages apart. It would have to settle for semi-glorious in the meantime.

As he walked lazily along, Loki began humming in the back of his throat as he gazed up at tapestries and statues of Odin Allfather. The God of Mischief was so busy being unoccupied that he almost missed the set of footsteps coming down the marble hallway. Unfortunately for his pursuer, it took quite a bit of skill to sneak up on the Trickster and Loki was aware of his presence long before he got close. He was about to turn when he detected something else in the air; a feel of hostility and anger. Cautiously, Loki shirked inwardly at the daunting feeling taking a hold on him and turned around. He was at once surprised to see Thor coming to a slow stand in front of him, a few feet back, with a bottle of wine hanging from his hand. His face was red and clouded, and his posture swooned with the affects of alcohol. He was clearly intoxicated, and this Loki noted with a nod and a smile.

"Rationing out your thoughts, are you, brother?" he asked pleasantly, placing his hands behind his back.

Thor let out a grunt and looked at the bottle in his hand as if it were foreign. The liquid sloshed around until he raised it to his lips and tipped it back, draining it of its contents until he threw it to the marble with a loud crash. Loki, startled, took a step back as red glass scattered across the floor by his boots. The God of Mischief chuckled briefly.

"I see it's going well." commented Loki, looking back up. There was something in the back of his head that kept nitpicking at his senses, telling him to stop talking and walk away, but he could hardly figure out why that would be necessary.

"What are you talking about, Loki?" asked Thor in a low, hazy voice that grumbled in his throat. He looked at his brother with bloodshot, baby-blue eyes; a frightening sight Loki wasn't used to seeing.

"I'm talking about this," said Loki, elaborating by kicking a shard of glass so it skid to a halt by Thor's foot. The God of Thunder only stared at it as Loki went on, "Last time I saw you this drunk was when rumor was going around that you and Lady Sif were to be engaged. My, how disappointed she was that day you told the kingdom it was not true."

Loki's jests passed through Thor like a hot knife through butter. He was still focused on the glass and reached down to pick it up. He inspected it and tested the sharp tip with his finger. It pierced the surface of his skin and drew blood but he either didn't notice, or didn't react. Loki watched oddly as the red liquid poured down his hand as he squeezed the glass a little harder.

"Right, well, I would recommend you return to your quarters, brother. I can promise you that a good night's rest will feel more gratifying than getting yourself senselessly drunk over a small loss of battle." said Loki, perking subtly on his toes.

At last he seemed to have caught Thor's attention. He looked up at Loki through thick, disoriented strands of blond and stared at him like a hunter after prey. There was that voice again, telling Loki to turn around and find a crowded hallway. The sensation almost made him want to laugh, but his face was empty and curious as Thor crossed the glass to reach him. His thick boots crunched on the shards as he came to Loki, raising his bleeding hand with the glass still in it. He narrowed his eyes and Loki could smell the thick, rank stench of ale and wine radiating off of him.

"You call our loss small, as if it were petty..." he said lowly, hardly breathing, "If you had not been there it would have been glorious."

Loki huffed out a humorless laugh and turned his head away to take a breath of clearer air, "A battle against thieves glorious? Brother, I fear for once you may have had your fill for the night, indeed."

"You think this is funny. You mock me." said Thor, taking a step back. Loki fidgeted with the hands behind his back; the need to run was no longer humorous but made him uncomfortable. Should he listen to it? What was the need? Thor got drunk often, the worse he could do was bring down the ugly relic of their father's spear on display nearby.

"I mock you only because you are making heavy of a light situation," said Loki calmly, eying his brother up and down, "Look at you, it is as if you had lost a sweetheart rather than a scuffle in the woods."

"I have never lost a battle, Loki...You made me lose that record...If you were not so ignorant to the ways of fighting you would have known better than to distract me..." said Thor lowly, pointing at him with an unsteady finger with the glass shard aimed at Loki's heart. Loki smiled and obeyed his inner voice a little, taking a step back.

"You were the one who insisted on taking me hunting, brother, the blame can't fall on my shoulders." he said logically. But he was smart enough to know that logic didn't work on a hazy mind.

"A foolish, cowardly excuse!" said Thor, raising his voice a decibel, "As you are a foolish, cowardly man! A true God knows how to battle in any circumstance, what you displayed today was material for mockery!"

Loki frowned, "If I recall correctly, you were the one who became easily distracted when delivering the final blow. Honestly, an ox couldn't have missed that one, distracted or not."

The next moment happened in a flash. Thor struck out and hit him across the cheek with the glass, hard enough to make him stumble and gasp in pain. Loki took a moment of disbelief before looking back at his brother, who was poised to attack again.

"You dare insult me in such manner? Your place is beneath me, Loki, and you must know it well. Do not make me remind you again. Now stand, like a true warrior, and face me for your faults." he slurred out, balling a fist.

Loki swallowed dryly and stood upright, his cheek stinging and throbbing as a bruise and blood began to form. He kept his mouth shut and his eyes trained downward, unable to use his quick mind to decide what to do next. That single blow had scattered his thoughts, and he just couldn't get over the painful fact that his brother just struck him. Thor had done it many times before in play battles, and truly just as hard, but never because he was in a fit of rage. If he just did what Loki trusted he never would do, will he do it again? Would it be wiser to retreat, or to stay stationed and try to ease his fury?

"I am waiting."

Loki stirred silently and turned his gaze to Thor, who was trying to balance in a basic fighting stance. Two minutes ago, the Silver Tongue felt that he could talk his brother down from his wrathful high, but now he was no longer certain of where his power over Thor reached its limit. Therefore, the wisest tactic would be to retreat, and if he was going to that, he should do it now.

"I have learned my lesson, brother. There's no need for more." said Loki quietly. He gave a tip of his head and turned on his heel, moving quickly and swiftly away from the broken glass. It was easy to hear Thor's noisy pursuit, and this time it struck up a flurry of questions Loki would ask himself in the case of being chased by an enemy soldier, not his older brother: Do I run faster, or turn and face him? If I were to fight him I would have to use magic, there would be no possible way to physically match him. Running may be an option, though it would not take long for him to find me. If I were to seek help, would anyone actually assist me?-

He felt a heavy hand clamp down on his shoulder, and when he was turned he was met with a heavy blow on the opposite side of his face; grazing his eye and taking his upper cheek. Loki fell this time and landed hard. He let out a sharp gasp, which felt pained and like his lungs had dried out, which resulted in him coughing. Thor lay a hand on him and pulled him up. Instead of striking again he slammed him against a wall and Loki went dizzy with pain and the smell of wine.

"I did not dismiss you, coward. Next time perhaps you will think twice before disrespecting me so many times in a single day." said Thor lowly, keeping a tight hold as Loki hung limp, like a rag-doll.

"I understand..." said Loki quietly, his emerald eyes trained cautiously on his brother.

The God of Thunder took a step back and released his grip, letting Loki fall to the ground. He stared coldly at his younger brother as he tried to recollect himself, and then let out a snort and stormed down the hall where he came from. Loki pushed himself up and took the wall for balance as he tried to supply his brain with oxygen. He gasped for a few moments and raised his hand tenderly to his cheek and eye, where he could already feel the swelling, and the wet warmth of blood. Closing his mouth to swallow, Loki looked after where Thor went and tried to calm his pounding heart. Whatever that was, it was over now.

What does he do? Just go about like nothing happened, he supposed, and avoid Thor when he's drunk. Does he try to explain the bruises to him the next morning? What if he gets upset again? Surely he wouldn't hit him when he was sober, Thor was kind to his little brother, he wouldn't intentionally hurt him. Yet he just did. But it wasn't purposefully, he didn't know what he was doing, did he?

Loki's head hurt and his cheeks throbbed. He let out a soft moan and stood upright to his usual, attentive posture. He would come up with a story about his injuries; say he fell off his horse during the battle, or something. People would buy it; he wasn't the most skilled of soldiers. His mother would certainly believe it, and he didn't really feel that he had to explain strange injuries to his father. King Odin was busy with other things, and this was just a petty incident. Loki even laughed a little bit. It wasn't like Thor was a criminal, just his idiot brother being his typical, short-tempered self. This time Loki was just closer than some object, that's all it was. The God of Mischief, with his hands behind his back, concluded that there was nothing to fret about except for his pulsing cheeks, so he turned and started walking back to his room without a second thought about it.

Neither brother showed up for breakfast the next day. Thor had a terrible headache and was hardly suitable to even walk on his own. So he slept the afternoon and finally stirred in time for supper, where he was feeling much livelier, though the thought of Odin scolding him was enough to bog him down. He tried not to slump when he came to his chair and lowered himself into it. It was a private meal today, and there was no one at the table but the Royalty and Lady Sif and the Warriors Three. Volstagg, of course, had already begun subtly taking food from his plate as they all sat, waiting for Thor to situate himself. When the God of Thunder had taken up his dining utensils, Queen Frigga scanned the table with her regal air and let out a soft sigh after noticing an empty chair.

"Again, your brother is absent from the table," she tutted, casting a look at Thor. King Odin made out a gruff sound and waved to a servant.

"He has slept long enough. A day wasted in sleep is a shame, and he shall not have anymore time to do it. Go and fetch Prince Loki to the table, tell him that his mother is not pleased with his constant negligence of meals." he commanded to the nearest footman, who nodded and moved to the door to pass the message along to an outside servant.

"I imagine you have had your fill of rest as well, after such a night, Thor?" asked Fandral, toasting his glass in subtle teasing. Lady Sif, knowing it wasn't appropriate to suggest such things in front of the King and Queen, shifted in her seat and took a sip of wine. Thor, though, seemed unbothered by the hints.

"Yes, I have had a very pleasing rest, thank you. It appears that it is contagious, as well. Has Loki not been to the table all evening?" asked Thor, daring a peek at his parents, who made sure to give him an extra long look in reprimand for his drunken behavior the other night.

"No, not all day." said Frigga, cutting into her poultry.

"Well, that is unlike him," said Thor sitting back with a frown, "He is usually up the earliest of us all. Perhaps yesterday took its toll on him, as well."

"Loki does not submit himself to such foolish antics." said Frigga passive aggressively before taking a sip of her water, "What was it you boys were making such a fuss about the other night?"

Thor dropped his slice of cheese and grunted while he chewed. After swallowing, he glared at his cup as he took it, "We were ambushed by some thieves in the woods while hunting game. The battle was shameful. We lost."

"Lost?" asked Odin curiously, "Against a band of thieves?"

Fandral and Volstagg had to suddenly wipe their mouths as they began to laugh, but Hogun merely passed a look at them, while Lady Sif reminded them their manners by nudging them under the table. Thor, catching all this, turned his glare to them before squeezing his glass.

"Yes, father. I was about to deliver the final blow to their leader, thus ending the battle, but Loki called out my name and distracted me right as I was about to hit. It pulled my attention away and caused for me to miss." he said grudgingly.

Odin merely nodded and leaned back in his chair, "Well, some battles we must lose. It is a good chance to recognize humbleness and shame, and learn from it to make yourself stronger. I am sure you did well, my boy, and you should not blame Loki for the simple mistake."

"I try not to," said Thor under his breath, "But I cannot help but feel as if it we would have had victory if he weren't there."

"It also may have helped if we were there," quipped Fandral as he chewed.

"Yes, but that would not have changed the fact that Loki intercepted at such a crucial moment." reasoned Thor, gesturing with his hand. The Queen tutted again, lowering her glass.

"I am sure everyone makes such mistakes as that at some point in their life. Do not be harsh towards him...Ah, and what good timing. Here he is, risen from his restful tomb in Valhalla." she commented, looking at the doors as they began to pull open.

A small tremor of surprise passed around the table as Loki walked in with two, black and blue bruises marring his face. He walked as swiftly and regally as ever as he stepped down the short staircase, nodding respectfully to everyone at the table, and took his seat next to Thor. For a moment, the God of Thunder thought Loki gave him a look, but when he checked again his brother was occupied with studying what it was they were eating that day. The Queen was studying other things, and her graying eyebrows were heavily knit.

"Loki, child, what has happened to you?" she asked, curious and worried.

Loki glanced up at her and then around the table with his eyes, as if they were all acting odd for staring at him so openly. His green eyes flecked over each face before he skipped over Thor and addressed his mother.

"Has Thor not informed you of the brawl we encountered yesterday? I took a few blows to my head, but I assure you I'm fine." he added with his charming voice and sincere expression. Thor studied him closely, feeling a tight sensation between them.

"I do not remember you being so injured when we returned home," he commented, narrowing his eyes a bit, "Then again, I do not suppose I remember much of yesterday." he added with a loud laugh that carried to Fandral, Volstagg, and made Lady Sif smile and shake her head. Queen Frigga pursed her lips and took another sip from her glass, clearly displeased by all the talk about the other night.

"Have you seen our healers about it?" she asked, looking to her youngest.

Loki nodded, "Yes, mother. Believe me, it was much worse before I did. I'm sure it will be healed by the end of the week."

"Very good. You're such a handsome boy, Loki, it's a pity your face has been tainted so." said Frigga with a warm, motherly smile. Loki smiled in return, nodding his head a little, and turned his meal and began cutting into it.

"Is that why you were sleeping all day?" asked Lady Sif, lowering her utensils a little.

"Well, no. I was just feeling a tad under the weather." said Loki. Again, Thor thought he caught a look from the corner of his eye but Loki appeared completely divulged in his meal.

Frowning as he chewed, Thor reached for his wine glass and took a heavy sip to wash down the unusually dry meat. When he withdrew his hand again, Loki was openly watching it this time, with an almost wary look about his face. Thor let his thick eyebrows drop down and followed his gaze to his hand, that had cuts he couldn't identify etched into his palm. Thor figured he must have dropped a wine bottle the other night and tried to pick it up, so he turned to Loki to give this excuse.

"I believe I was overly clumsy the other night," he reported, waving his hand a bit. It could have been a trick of his imagination, but Loki's uninjured eye flinched ever so lightly, and he leaned back a little to go back to his dish.

"I see. Do you remember much of the other night?" asked Loki placidly.

"No, not much at all." said Thor with another light laugh, looking across the table to lock eyes with Lady Sif, who rolled her gaze to the ceiling with a half-smile.

"I forbid you, then, to try repeating yesterday this evening," said Frigga sternly, "One night in a month is enough to be that reckless with Prince's duties lined up so high."

"Of course, mother." said Thor.

"I doubt he could if he tried, anyhow." said Fandral with a charming laugh that earned him empty stares across the table. He cleared his throat and went back to his bread and cheese.

As time passed, the table moved into a lighter, more pleasant conversation. Sif and Volstagg worked together to try and retell a battle story, while Fandral threw in tidbits of humor that had the Royalties laughing delightedly. One thing Thor noticed, however, is when he tried to retell the battle with the thieves, at the insisting of Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, Loki stayed completely silent and didn't acknowledge much of the story at all. Until it came to the part where Thor was about to deliver the final blow.

"The battle was already thinning, and I knew victory was in our hands. The leader of the band was standing not far from where I was, and I was aware that he must be taken down in order to claim the win. So I stood myself ready, my hammer poised just so above my head, as to strike down with as much force as I could-" said Thor, demonstrating with a turkey leg at the fascination of the table, and light disapproval of Odin, "I took a steady breath and lunged for him with all my might. I was coming at him from the right flank, and just as he turned to see me-"

"I apparently ruined the assault by calling out his name, which must have been horribly distracting, indeed." said Loki suddenly, making Thor stir from his animated reenactment to look at him. Most at the table couldn't help but burst into laughter at the rare retelling from the God of Mischief, but Loki's eyes trained down the moment Thor turned to him.

"It was distracting," said Thor defensively as the chuckles died down, "To hear your brother call out in the midst of battle, not knowing if he were still well and unharmed or not. Can you blame me, brother, for having some concern for your well-being?"

Loki took a sip from his drink, "Oh, is that why you were so easily turned away? Concerned for my well being? How very thoughtful of you, but last I recall you have very little care for how I am handled in battle."

"A false statement if ever I heard one," said Thor incredulously, giving him an odd smile as he rested an elbow on his armrest so he could face him properly, "I care very much for your security."

"I am glad to hear you say so, considering it is one of your duties." interjected Frigga, making Fandral chuckle under his breath.

"But I mean duty aside, as well," said Thor, looking at her before he turned his attention back to Loki.

"Good to know." said Loki quietly, his eyebrows raised as his sip became heavier. He put his glass down and smiled at the table, "It has been a pleasant meal, but I'm feeling unwell once more. I'll have to excuse myself."

"You're sure you won't stay for desert?" asked Volstagg around a mouthful, as if this was a criminal action. Loki, raised from his chair, shook his head before waving a hand and turning out of the room. Everyone waited until the door was closed again before Lady Sif shifted in her chair and stared down at her nearly finished dish.

"Well, he was acting odd." she commented, taking a bite.

"He does not usually get harmed in battle. Perhaps it upset him?" asked Fandral, looking around for approval.

Thor laughed, "Please, friend, I would like to think it would take more than a few blows to upset Loki. The chances are that he was swallowed up by his book when mother called him to the table, and merely wants to return to it."

"This is a practice that might do you some good as well, child." said Odin, making Frigga smile subtly while another round of laughter at Thor's expense went around the table.

As he wandered the hallways towards his room that night, Thor couldn't help but recall the tension he felt between himself and Loki during supper. Neither one acted any differently, and yet something felt shaken and unpleasantly out of place. It was easy to ignore whenever he focused on someone across the table, but each time he passed a glance at his younger brother he could have sworn he saw him subtly flinch, or sink in his chair, or intentionally look the other way. Loki still laughed at supper, but Thor couldn't help but feel like there was something the matter with him. Usually the God of Thunder would just let it alone and assume it was some impossible enigma he would never riddle out, but after Loki's sudden doubt of his brother's care for him, Thor felt almost as if he had to prove him wrong and step up to his duties as an older sibling. It was a challenge, now, to see what was the matter with Loki. He boldly excepted it and turned his course to find his brother's door in the hallway.

It was late, but a dim glow from a lantern was easily seen through the thin crack between the door and the marble. Thor took up his beefy fist and knocked loudly, several times. There was no signal that Loki had heard or responded, and Thor was about to knock again when the door suddenly swung slowly inwards. The God of Thunder peered inside, expecting to see Loki standing in the doorway, but his brother was all the way over on his bed; watching him with lazy eyes and a book in his lap. Thor let out a soft sigh. He was never fond of Loki's tricks, but to use them because he was too sluggish to get up was just slothful.

"May I come in, brother?" asked Thor, noting that Loki was already in his nightwear, and his hair was in wild curls with the styling oils washed out of it.

"I don't believe my permission has ever mattered to you before." responded Loki simply, looking him up and down with unamused eyebrows.

Ignoring the hidden jab, Thor stepped inside and closed the door with a loud clicking sound. He strode slowly over the the bed, gazing at all of Loki's odd knick-knacks that spun and glistened in the light of his lamp. Thor's room was full of weapons and portraits of war, and Loki's was full of toys and books. An odd contrast, and one Thor still couldn't wrap his thick head around. He came to a stop at the bottom edge of Loki's bed and leaned his hand against the tall mattress that was raised on a small platform, like the other beds in the castle.

"Are you feeling well?" he asked to start, unable to think of where else he could begin. Loki looked at his book and slid a piece of cloth between the pages before closing it on his crossed lap. He stared at the cover a moment, thinking deeply, and then looked up through the bruise on his eye.

"I suppose." he said at length.

"I came here because you were acting odd at dinner, and I wanted to make sure all was well with you." continued Thor, easing himself down on the corner of the mattress with his knees apart. Loki watched him carefully through half-lidded eyes, and then studied his face.

"What do you think is wrong with me?" he asked sincerely.

Thor washed a hand over his beard and looked thoughtful, "I believe you perhaps may feel guilty about causing the loss of our battle yesterday."

There was a thick silence that Thor couldn't understand, and then Loki huffed out a laugh and looked down at his book with a wide grin. He splayed his hand over the title-in some language Thor couldn't read-and shook his head slightly.

"I guess you could say you were right to a degree. I don't feel guilty about it, but more regretful that it caused such trouble afterwards."

"What do you mean?" asked Thor, furrowing his brows.

"I mean the aftermath of the battle was much worse than the battle itself."

Now Thor was truly confused. He turned himself a quarter so that his leg mounted onto the mattress and he was completely facing his little brother. Trying to solve Loki's inadvertent hinting, he scratched his chin and then put out his hand.

"I do not follow." he stated, slumping back again.

"You rarely do." returned Loki plainly, quietly. He hummed, debating something, and then let out a sigh and decided it would be kind to elaborate to his brother, "You were very drunk yesterday."

"That I know." said Thor, pointing.

"Can you remember?"

Thor stared at the corner of the room with narrowed eyes. After a while he gave up and threw his hands up in defeat, "I tire of your guessing games, brother. I cannot remember anything about yesterday, you must just tell me."

Again Loki laughed, but there was a glint in his eye that Thor didn't altogether like. The God of Mischief scanned the room as if the answer was laying sprawled and obvious on his floor and it was stupid that Thor couldn't see it. When Loki looked back, he slumped and his smile began to fade. When it faded to a degree, it completely dropped, which startled Thor more than any of his behavior to this point. It looked as if he was about to say something, but instead swallowed and turned his emerald eyes down.

"Nevermind," said Loki shortly. Thor felt frustration grow up inside him. Loki was acting cryptic and ridiculous, which wasn't unusual, but was irritating him more than it normally did with all this mysterious build up.

"Tell me." said Thor, leaning forward intently.

"It's not very important, after all." insisted Loki, becoming interested in his book again. Annoyed, Thor reached forward and snagged the book from his hands sharply. He expected Loki to react as he normally did when he took his things; a light sigh and well hidden sarcasm, but this time the air grew suddenly tense and uncomfortable.

Retreating with the book, Thor was able to read the mood and looked up, surprised, at Loki. His brother was stiff and still looked where his book was, as if he was anticipating something. When a few moments ticked by, Loki relaxed again and looked at his brother, swallowing.

"What?" asked Thor, confused.


The God of Thunder glanced away from Loki's unreadable expression and turned the book in his hand, as if it was the source of the unhinged atmosphere. Seeing no hidden strings or tricks, he faced his brother, feeling more lost than he did before entering the room.

"You are acting as if you had seen a ghost. Are you sure all is well with you, brother?" asked Thor. It took a moment for Loki to answer, but he did so definitely and hurriedly.

"I'm fine. Tired, perhaps. If you would let me turn in for the night..?" he asked, letting his voice fade and trail as his eyes landed on the book. Giving him an odd look, Thor handed the book cautiously over and then rose from the bed, watching Loki set the hardcover on his lap again.

"Very well, brother. I hope a good nights rest puts you at ease. I will see you on the morrow, then." said Thor, backing slowly out of the room. Loki watched him go, and even as Thor went through the doorway he could feel his brother's emerald eyes trained intently on his back.

For the next two weeks, Thor felt as if Loki were treating him like a rabid animal; ready to pounce at any given minute with lethal force. It confused and unsettled the God of Thunder, even when he tried to ignore it. It was odd when someone so close to you was out of rhythm, because it put you off-beat as well, which is something the Almighty Thor wasn't used to, therefore didn't know how to handle. He tried to think of someone who was good at emotional difficulties, and the first thing that came to mind was a woman. Women were good at emotions, correct? He couldn't turn to his mother, though, for she was often busy and would only fret over Loki and get nothing out of him in return. Instead, Thor went with a more assertive female.

"So he is acting odd: Loki is simply an odd person. Just keep trying to press the information out of him." said Sif as she leaned on the balcony, facing out towards the Rainbow Bridge while Thor leaned his back on the rail and kept his arms crossed.

"You do not understand, I have been trying to do that for weeks. It's foolish of him to keep avoiding my questioning, and I would very much like to drop the matter and carry on, but he's not letting it slip. Whatever it may be that I am wanting to let go, he's not." said Thor gruffly.

Lady Sif shook her head, smiling in disbelief, "If something is greatly upsetting a person, they will not let it drop, no matter how uncomfortable it may be making you feel. If you want Loki to stop brooding around you have to get to the source of the problem and fix it."

"How?" demanded Thor, turning a quarter to face her. Lady Sif shrugged her shoulders as she scanned her brown eyes over the land.

"Well I don't know," she said simply. As Thor let out a groan and faced away again, she looked up at the evening sky, "Think about what it takes to get information out of Loki."

"It takes years of cryptic decoding and an infinite amount of patience. He is impossible to speak to about such things." said Thor bitterly, crossing his arms tightly.

"Runs in the family," muttered Sif, marking that down in her list of similar, inconvenient quirks Loki and Thor shared. So far it was a very small list, and she doubted it would be growing larger anytime soon. With a sigh, she pushed off the balcony and watched him as he glared into the castle through the open doorway.

"What have you tried so far?" asked Sif.

"I have tried speaking to him about it."

"How many times?"

"Twice." said Thor with raised eyebrows, as if this was an unreasonably high number and he expected Sif to be shocked by it. Instead she laughed and shook her head again.

"It will take more times than that." she chuckled.

"You jest."

"I do not."

Thor let out a loud growl and slumped, "Why should I waste my time trying to find the source of some petty trouble of his?"

"I don't know. Why did you come to me to get help about it?"

"Because he's acting odd."

"And you want to fix that, which is why you're going to find him and question the petty trouble out of that man, am I correct?" asked Sif, nodding over at the hallways, "If not, then carry on with life and simply don't be bothered by his behavior."

"How can I not be bothered by it? It is as if he's waiting for someone to strike him from the shadows at every corner he turns." said Thor, exasperated.

Sif tilted her head, "He acts that way all the time?"

"When I see him he does. I need no other proof."

She looked like she was recalling something and spoke to the ground with her thumbs hooked in her belt, "I believe I saw him toying with a servant's bread the other day, going about his usual antics. To me it didn't seem at all that he was acting cautious, which is why I assumed his trouble was between you two."

As Sif looked up at him, Thor gave her a strange look. He was usually a common victim of Loki's tricks, but the past two weeks he had seen none of his brother's magic. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that he had, indeed, heard the usual complaints from too-loud servants in the halls about how their bread had suddenly burnt to a crisp or turned into a bird and flown away. Yet Loki never seemed in his pranking mood whenever Thor came across him, which must mean that Lady Sif was correct.

"You mean I am the source of his trouble?" asked Thor, dubious.

"That's how I see it." she replied, rolling a shoulder.

Thor scoffed and shifted his stance, "I cannot see, then, where the problem lies. I have done nothing that would strike up tension between us-"

"And yet you feel it...Or so I've been told." said Sif factually when he glared.

"If I were to bring up the chance that I was the one upsetting him, do you believe he might finally explain his moodiness to me?" asked Thor, rubbing his jawline with the tip of his fingers.

"It would be worth it to try."

Thor pushed himself off the balcony and adjusted his tunic, glancing around himself as he did so, "Do you know where he is?"

"I imagine if he isn't toying with the servants than he's either in his room, the library, or the stables." said Sif, following his suit by getting ready to leave and finally get around to her sparring session with Hogun. Thor nodded and then let out a huff of air.

"With any luck I'll return in time to take you on in fist combat." he said with a teasing smile as the walked back into the halls.

"And with no luck needed I'll take you down again when you do so." she retorted with the same grin. Thor pointed at her, and then nodded a thanks for her help and they separated down both ways in the halls.

Finding Loki proved to be a harder task than Thor thought. He wasn't in any places Sif suggested to him, and now the Prince of Asgard was left wandering the gardens in thought, no longer paying attention to where he was going, but turning the gears in his slow mind. He was trying to come up with all the circumstances in which he could have offended Loki. Thor was often doing things like taking his books, and breaking his knick-knacks, but he couldn't recall doing either of these things very recently. He believed that Loki may have hinted it after supper a few weeks ago, but he forgot what tht conversation was about, only that Loki had panicked somewhere towards the end of it. What had they been talking about? The day of the hunt was before then, so maybe they were discussing Loki's mistake? It was likely, but Thor still couldn't see how it would upset his little brother.

Thor's head was bowed against the sun and his face was marred with the burden of thought. It was funny how he didn't acknowledge the light singing until it faded away and let silence lap over. Looking up, Thor saw Loki ghosting his hand over some interesting looking plants with wide thorns and brown leaves. His brother was staring at him, waiting, and when Thor said nothing he tilted his head a little.

"Is there something you wanted, brother?" he asked calmly, pulling his hand back to his side. Thor blinked, trying to reorganize his easily scattered thoughts, and relocated what it was he wanted to say.

"Yes, I have come close to discovering your problem." said Thor confidently. Loki stared at him for a long time, whether because he was surprised, or because he was just trying to make Thor feel like as big of an idiot as he sounded, Thor couldn't tell.

"Oh?" said Loki after an uncomfortably long silence. He inspected the cobblestone path and plucked at a dead leaf he had been holding in his hand.

"Yes, and it pertains to myself, I believe." said Thor, stepping up to him so he could speak with more gentility. This seemed to catch Loki's attention. His emerald eyes turned up though his head stayed bowed, and that tension stirred again. Loki wasn't going to say anything, so Thor went on, "I fear I have done you some harm, though I know not what it is yet. But whatever I have done, I greatly apologize for it."

Loki tossed the leaf into the thorns, "I don't think apologies work like that, brother."

"What would you have me do, then? If I do not know what I am seeking forgiveness for, how can I apologize to you correctly? You are becoming a great nuisance, Loki, and I mean to fix this nonsensical awkwardness between us once and for all." said Thor, getting heated again.

Loki watched him carefully, the bruise over his eye faint now, but still standing out on his pale face, "I feel it would not be wise to tell you what has me being awkward around you."

"You cannot say something as ominous as that and then not tell," said Thor, holding a hand out momentarily, "What do you fear will happen if you tell me?"

Loki bit the inside of his lip and took another leaf. Breathless laughs were becoming frequent with him these weeks, and Thor rolled his eyes when he did it again.

"You really want to know?" he asked.

"Of course." said Thor, glad to be getting somewhere.

Loki stood upright and perked a little on his boots, as if uncomfortable with how he was standing. He looked over his shoulder and back behind Thor's before meeting his face with a factual, placid look.

"You hit me, brother. When you were drunk those weeks ago. It was not in battle that I got these injuries, but by your own hand." said Loki, swallowing nervously when he was done.

Thor blinked in shock and now understood why Loki watched him so carefully as he took a step back and stared at the flowers to the side. Thor's mind tried to wrap around and grasp what this meant. He hit Loki, which means he must have been very drunk, indeed. It must have been startling for his little brother. But he was drunk, Loki should have stayed away, there's really nothing else to it. Thor let out a laugh of understanding.

"I see, now. You are upset because I hit you in a fit of intoxication, and now you think I will get drunk and do it again, is that it, brother?" asked Thor. He looked at Loki and was caught off guard at how cautiously he stood; like a rabbit trying to find a way out of the fox's den. Frowning, Thor took a step closer, "You know I would not hurt you when I am sober. If I was drunk, however, I can only see the fault landing on yourself for not staying away. I am sorry the incident frightened you, Loki, but it is nothing to hold onto so tightly. You should have addressed the problem to me from the start and dropped it the moment after."

Loki locked eyes with him, making Thor feel alien to his brother for a fleeting, disturbing second. The silence was broken when Loki smiled smally and nodded once.

"I suppose you are right. I should not have made such a deal of it. Forgive me, brother, for making you feel so uncomfortable these past weeks." said Loki, sounding sincere and honest. The spark in his eye said otherwise, but Thor didn't care to notice and broke into a foolish grin.

"No need to apologize, brother. And I, in turn, am sorry for frighting you. Now we have learned to stay away from mad, drunk men, correct?" he laughed heartily and Loki chuckled, staring at his feet. Thor eyed his brother, glad things were back as they were before, and extended an arm to beckon him, "Come. Lady Sif and the Warriors Three are sparring today, if we hurry we may be able to join them."

"Actually, I had plans to go on a ride." said Loki suddenly, raising his head.

"Are you sure?" asked Thor, taking a step back towards the castle with his arm still out, "Your skills have been increasing significantly of late, I have half the mind to show you off to the Warriors since they're so accustomed to teasing you. It would be a good laugh to see their faces when you take down Volstagg." he added playfully.

Loki shook his head, "No, I'll have to pass. Thank you for finding me, though. And tell the Warriors and Lady Sif that I regret my absence for today. I shall see you tonight, brother."

"Alright, if you are sure. I shall see you tonight." said Thor, waving his hand as he turned and went back to the castle. Loki watched him go until he was far out of sight, and then began a slow walk to the stables, knowing he wasn't likely to return that night.